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Mark Sperring & Alys Paterson's

The Shape of My Heart

Bristol-based author and bookseller, Mark Sperring and illustrator, Alys Paterson have been friends for many years, but this is their first picture book together.

The world is filled with shapes. A bird, a car, the stars in the sky - what shapes can you see?

The Shape of My Heart is a tender story about the shape of something very special – love.

Mark Sperring studied at Bath Academy of Art and Camberwell College of Art before working as a printer and a bookseller, and later becoming a children's book author. Mark is the author of Captain Buckleboots on the Naughty Step (Puffin) and The Sunflower Sword (Andersen). Mark is also the author of Dino-Baby, illustrated by Sam Lloyd coming in May 2013. Mark is founder member of the Bristol based group of authors and illustrators, Brillustration: www.brillustrationbristol.blogspot.co.uk

Alys Paterson is a graphic designer and fine artist who studied Illustration at Falmouth College of Arts. Alys's clients include Habitat, Waterstones, Elle Magazine and The Art Group. Visit Alys’s website for more of her stunning artwork: www.alyspaterson.com

We caught up with Mark and Alys to chat about their work

How did you get involved with creating picture books for children? Is it something you always wanted to do?

M: I always wanted to write children's stories.  When I first started  writing it was longer pieces of fiction  and short stories.  Then, I met the illustrator Sarah Warburton and through her (and books specifically on writing for children) developed a clearer idea of what writing  for picture books might entail.  I really enjoyed the  balance between words and pictures and found myself almost exclusively developing picture book ideas.

A: Yes it has always been my ambition to illustrate children's books as picture books were such a massive part of my childhood, but have only found my way down that road in the last few years. I graduated in 2001 with a degree in Illustration, but have mainly done more design related work until now, so I'm really happy with this new turn of events. 

What are you working on at the moment and how’s it going?

M: I'm currently working on an idea for a third story in a picture books series. It’s about two bears , a daddy bear and a little bear. It's really nice when you get to return to familiar characters.   So far I've got a beginning and a middle but no end , so basically, I need an end!

A: I am working on a really nice doodle book project. It's in a pen and ink style, so it is a completely different challenge to 'The Shape of My Heart'. I'm really enjoying it, there is lots and lots of drawing and hand lettering involved.  

Are there writers or illustrators who have particularly inspired you, and the way you work?

M: There are so many authors  whose work I find inspirational, but I don't feel they have inspired me in any particular direction, other than to try and  write entertaining and well written stories.

A: Yes there are so many illustrators and artists that inspire me, I really couldn't begin to list them all! I particularly love the line work of Tove Jansson, Shirley Hughes, Edward Ardizzone, Maurice Sendak and Edward Gorey. My colour heroes are Brian Wildsmith, Eric Carle , David Mckee, David Hockney and Howard Hodgkin.

Do you have any advice for writers or illustrators who may wish to see their work published?

M: I think it's a good idea to study the market, see what's getting published and by whom. It’s certainly worth investing  in, or borrowing The Writers 'and Artists' Yearbook and possibly other 'how to' books in the specific writing genre you are interested in. Then, write, write, write and never EVER let rejection stop you

A: Work on creating your own distinctive style, and keep experimenting. My style is always evolving as learn more about the publishing process, characterisation, and composition. Also get a good agent!